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Pigs in a paddock shift system

 
luke allen
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We have a question about how much area the pigs need in a paddock shift system.

A little about the land. We are in northern california in the rolling hills of micro-meadow blue oak woodlands, with a few foothill pines twisting around, and dotted with black oaks, manzantia and a few buckeye. 2o acres. We just put in a set of hugelkultur/swales catching the rain and the road runoff with trees built into the base of the berm. We recieve around 40 inches of rain a year with a 3 plus month completely dry summer season, with temps in august around 109 degrees F.

We are planning on raising 2 or 3 pigs in a paddock shift system. We are thinking of 5 paddocks created using the portable/solar electric mesh fencing. The plan is to sow the paddock area with fodder and let the pigs browse for 7 days and then shift the electric mesh fence to the next paddock where they will browse for 7 days, continuing until they loop back around to the original paddocka month later. The paddocks can be created to include most of the hugelkultur swales and the oak woodland.

The land gets quite hot and dry for 3 months of the year, then rain returns and the acorns drop everywhere.

Our question is, how much land area in each paddock do the pigs need to support themselves and provide most, or all of their food via their browsing.

We are planing on building a small pig animal shelter, like in Sepp Holzers Permaculture, the simple dugout shelter with trees accross it for the roof, in each of the 5 paddocks. Any thoughts on this.

And the last question is, about which plants to add to the oak woodland area and the swales for the pigs to eat. We are thinking of sowing a polyculture of radish, beets, kale, chenopodiums, spinachs, chards.. and other medicinal and herbals. Can you recommend any plants that the pigs enjoy and that help to make the pig really yummy tasting?

Thanks to sepp holzer and the Holzer Agro team.
Luke
 
Joshua Chambers
Posts: 71
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
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luke allen wrote:We have a question about how much area the pigs need in a paddock shift system.
We are planing on building a small pig animal shelter, like in Sepp Holzers Permaculture, the simple dugout shelter with trees accross it for the roof, in each of the 5 paddocks. Any thoughts on this.


In the paddock shift system that I am planning, I am also considering multiple animal shelters (barns) so that the pigs have access to them in all paddocks and rotation can be made simpler. However, since I am on a fairly flat terrain, I am planning to have paddocks with multiple doors in a "wagon wheel" type configuration. I am planning on four doors in each barn, each accessing different paddocks, this allows for far fewer barns (4 paddocks per barn rather than one). Perhaps this notion could save you some construction as well?
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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I just heard (or maybe read) from Paul explaining why he didn't like the wagon wheel set up. I think it was in his most recent podcast with Jack on the Survival Podcast. The problems were similar to coop and run. The land nearest the shelter becomes bare and too poopy.
 
Joshua Chambers
Posts: 71
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
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I heard that podcast as well, and here is how I plan to mediate that concern in my particular paddock configuration!

My plan (still in development) currently involves 7 earth sheltered animal barns, each surrounded by four paddocks of approximately 1/2 acre each, adding up to 28 paddocks totaling approximately 14 acres. I am planning to have both pigs and chickens together, moving from paddock to paddock and barn to barn, though I do expect that there might be a slightly higher level of impact in the area surrounding each barn, the system will be quite large, and so the area around and inside each barn will still get significant rest. This system will have no "sacrificial" areas as Paul described them in that podcast either, with a lot of flexibility available as to the order of rotation, as from in each barn, one of four paddocks can be selected, or from any paddock, one of several adjacent paddocks can be selected.

The entire area of this paddock system is going to be encompassing a "maze" of very large hugel beds of the sepp holzer style, with a very diverse polyculture on all the hugels. There will be wide paths (10' - 12' wide), some of which containing a few "field crops" (such as grains, legumes, etc) in strips between the hugels. I am currently in the process of planning this system and acquiring a nice big excavator to build it with! I'm even getting a tiltrotator to make digging curvy trenches and accurately placing the hugel logs much quicker and easier.

Referencing back to the original poster's question as to pig density, I think Sepp's reply would be to "ask the paddock", meaning to judge the answer to this question by the diversity and maturity of the vegetation in the paddock. In his second book, he references a quite small range of animal density, which (if I recall correctly) 2 - 12 pigs per hectare. I expect to start with relatively few animals and increase them over time as the maturity of the system allows. With as many paddocks as I plan to have in my system, I hope to be able to (eventually!) increase the density of the animals fairly significantly because the length of time they remain in each paddock can be so low.

--Joshua
 
Zach Weiss
pollinator
Posts: 294
Location: Montana
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Joshua hit the nail on the head with his "ask the paddock" answer. It is most important to move them around and that they are not staying in one area for too long. It depends on the type of pigs you have, the climate, the vegetation, each situation is unique. Try it out and observe the results. Put yourself in the place of the pig, in the place of the plants in the paddock. This is how you observe the results of your actions and enables you to make adjustments. How long you leave the pigs in each area depends on what you want to do with the area afterward. For example if you want to sow grain after the pigs then you can leave them in an area for a longer amount of time. If it is a permanent paddock system for the animals then you leave them in it for a shorter length of time. It would take 2 - 3 hours to explain even just some of the variables involved.

As far as plants: plant everything you think might work. The pigs will let you know what they like and what they do not like. Jerusalem Artichokes are particularly useful because when the pigs dig them up to eat them they spread the tubers around and never get them all. In this way the pigs are gardening for themselves.

Judith, Johnny, Zach, and Chad - Team Holzer AgroEcology
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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